WESTMINSTER — The East Main Street Task Force is analyzing citizen comment on the downtown reconstruction project and preparing final recommendations to the City Council.
But opinions are still welcome from the public.
"It's significant that the plans are still on tracing paper," Thomas B. Beyard, the city's director of planning, said at Thursday's meeting. "I hope you realize we do want to hear from you, and the task force will consider everything that is said."
Plans include leaving East Main Street at its present width -- ranging from 34 to 38 feet-- and adding 6-foot pedestrian nodes or "bubbles" at various placesalong the street to accommodate people and trees.
The brick nodeswould reach into the street and decrease the crosswalk length.
"We're taking the road from the cars and giving it back to the people,"said Dan Uebersax, a landscape engineer with the State Highway Administration's Landscape Architecture Division.
Architectural styles native to Westminster -- such as the design of house steps and brick crosswalks -- will be integrated into the overall plan to give the project a distinctive "signature."
"Westminster has inner townscape resources we shouldn't lose sight of," said Uebersax. "They give EastMain Street the character and feel you all have been telling us you want to keep."
Downtown parking was a major concern to task force members and residents. Home and business owners worry that spaces will be removed from in front of their buildings.
Task force members noted, however, that private parking lots that owners have created behind buildings will more than make up for the 35 spaces that might belost in providing tree and pedestrian space.
"Even if we take away those 35 parking spaces, there are more spaces than there were fouryears ago because of the way properties have been developed," said task force member James Billingslea, owner of The Billingslea Corp. at187 E. Main St. "We are not going to solve the parking problem directly on Main Street."
Uebersax said the city's alleys also provide parking and a means for residents to
escape congested traffic.
Members also suggested that residents be informed early about the 18-month project so they can plan ahead. For example, the owner of Cockey's Tavern is considering putting in a back entrance to make up for lost walk-in traffic during construction, said Wayne Barnes, chairman of the city's parking committee.
"During the (West Main Street) project, where Pennsylvania Avenue meets Main, a couple of businesses never recovered because they had constant construction for 2 1/2 years," he said. "In this case, some businesses will have to do construction to overcome what we're doing to the road."
Frank Wanken of the Baltimore, Gas and Electric Co. said residents need information to alter driving patterns.
"When people find out what's happening, theystay away," he said.